Colleges are returning to normal operation, and many have once again started offering individual classes. But are they ready to teach students how to navigate life after the pandemic? Or how to find a job in an economy radically changed by COVID-19?
As a professor of engineering and entrepreneurship, and the author of a new book on teaching entrepreneurial thinking to college students, we studied how entrepreneurial skills improve students’ confidence, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. can do.
Such courses are a staple in business schools, especially for students who want to start a company. But it has the potential to benefit all students, including majors in engineering, agriculture and even arts.
Graduates who develop an entrepreneurial mindset habitually and instinctively learn to recognize new opportunities and create value within an organization. This value may be related to new product development or continuous improvement, such as implementing a more ergonomic workspace to address health and safety issues. These entrepreneurial skills better prepare graduates to enter today’s workforce and solve the complex challenges raised by the pandemic.
Think Like an Entrepreneur
The entrepreneurial mindset is defined as the tendency to discover, evaluate and exploit opportunities. For example, an employee with an entrepreneurial mindset may recommend ideas to improve the company’s general cost savings, or focus on improvements related to quality, productivity, or safety.
Students can use these skills in four key ways: to start a new business, to bring value to their employer, to solve major social challenges, and to improve their personal lives. Major societal challenges may include ending hunger or reversing climate change, while a personal application of an entrepreneurial mindset may involve making a career change.
Rise of Entrepreneurship Education
Entrepreneurship training has long helped graduates succeed in business and technology. The University of Michigan was one of the first to offer a course in entrepreneurship as early as 1927. However, despite being in the midst of an economic downturn, real growth in entrepreneurial education began in the 1970s.
In 1975, only 100 colleges across the United States had majors, minors, or certificates in entrepreneurship. Today, there are more than 3,000 colleges and universities around the world offering entrepreneurship-related courses and programs.
In these courses, students learn how to validate business models, interview potential clients and present an idea to investors and decision-makers. The goal is to learn how to identify the intersection between meeting customer desires and optimizing your own business capabilities.
Such training works.
Research shows that developing behaviors associated with entrepreneurial thinking are valuable, if not critical, to long-term business success. Entrepreneurship training helps students better communicate, collaborate and solve problems. In short, it allows students to better understand and implement activities that generate value within and between organizations.
And yet, despite these benefits, most universities offer entrepreneurship education as an option specifically for students interested in business.
Entrepreneurship for all majors
However, an entrepreneurial approach to curriculum can benefit all courses and university majors.
Take engineering majors, for example.
Typically, a company’s marketing department will study consumer trends to identify products and needs. The marketing department then expects the engineers to follow up on their orders without questioning the problem.
But entrepreneurial-minded engineers can get involved in the process from the very beginning. This is what we explored in our previous book, which focused on how to integrate engineering and entrepreneurship education. Being able to identify problems and spot new opportunities makes engineers better equipped to identify and solve problems that may arise when designing certain products.
Within the liberal arts and humanities, design and media majors can also develop their entrepreneurial mindset to be better prepared to enter the gig economy as independent contractors.
For example, photographers, book illustrators and graphic designers can be trained not only to create great art according to theory and books, but how to sell great art.
The pandemic highlighted the importance of entrepreneurial training in the health sciences. Nurses and hospital staff provided design insight and practical feedback to increase mask and ventilator production. He then worked to develop efficient COVID-19 testing and vaccination procedures. Result? Saved many lives.
We believe it is time to integrate the entrepreneurial mindset across the university – and truly prepare students to succeed in the post-pandemic world.
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